PATIENTS trying to get through to a Basingstoke GP surgery are having to wait almost an hour on the phone.

Residents have been sharing their frustrations about trying to get hold of some GP surgeries in the town, including the Camrose, Gillies and Hackwood (CGH) Partnership and Beggarwood Surgery both owned by American health firm Operose.

The company also runs Shakespeare Road Medical Practice.

The Gazette tried to contact CGH Partnership in Basingstoke and a pre-recorded message advised that it is “experiencing high volumes of calls”.

We chose to retain our place in the queue and receive a call back when reaching the front of the queue when phoning at 9.45am and did not receive this until almost an hour later at 10.40am.

When trying to contact the Beggarwood Surgery at 11am, there was an engaged tone with the phone saying the line was busy, before the call was cut off.

The lengthy wait comes as Basingstoke Labour councillors have accused the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) responsible for GP surgeries of letting residents down.

A survey asking for residents to give their feedback on GP surgeries in the town, launched by the Labour group, blames the problems many are experiencing on Hampshire, Southampton and Isle of Wight CCG.

It says: “We know that many of you are experiencing difficulty accessing the services you need in respect of personal medical care whether that is an NHS dentist or your GP surgery.”

Hampshire, Southampton and Isle of Wight CCG is responsible for commissioning primary care services in Basingstoke meaning NHS contacts are given to organisations and doctor partnerships to run GP surgeries in the town.

The Labour group said: “Many people believe that all GP surgeries are part of the NHS system and structure. But that is not true, they are all independent businesses. Some are small partnerships of doctors and others are big multinational US companies like Centine owned Operose.

“For many years the CCG has been letting Basingstoke down.”

Councillors accused the CCG of failing to provide a “stable supply of providers for Basingstoke” and managing performance.

They added: “We have had the past saga of Beggarwood and Rooksdown surgeries collapsing after being bought out by an organisation owned by venture capitalists. More recently we have had difficulties with mergers into “super-sized surgeries” that have just not worked. Contracts are given out but returned after a short time.”

Councillors claim the problem existed “years before the pandemic and needs fixing now”.

The survey asks residents what their main concerns or issues are with accessing GP services so that feedback can be given to the CCG and to put pressure on it to “develop a Basingstoke specific strategy to ensure good quality GP provision”.

Hampshire County Councillor Kim Taylor said Operose has agreed to meet with local ward councillors to discuss its plans for the town’s surgeries.

The Labour councillor for Basingstoke Central Division said she intervened and reached out to Operose directly after Hampshire, Southampton and Isle of Wight CCG failed to respond to her concerns regarding residents being unable to access GP appointments.

Cllr Taylor said “GPs up and down the country have been working amazingly hard during the pandemic and Basingstoke GPs are no exception to this. However, there is no getting away from the fact that there have been longstanding pre-Covid issues that still need to be resolved in order that residents’ confidence is fully restored. I am very keen to work with Operose to make this happen and I am grateful for their willingness to do this.”

She is urging people to contact their councillors if they have any issues regarding GP systems and to take part in the online survey

Dr Matt Nisbet, GP partner and clinical lead of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight CCG, said: “General practice teams continued to treat patients throughout the pandemic as well as working on the biggest vaccination programme the NHS has ever seen. We are now seeing thousands of people daily with face-to-face appointments as well as continuing to offer patients the choice of face-to-face and remote appointments.”  

A spokesperson for Operose Health said: "All of our GP practice teams are working hard to provide the access, care and support our patients expect. We continue to recruit more staff and invest in our services to do this. This year, we have employed extra GPs, a new pharmacist, a nurse and healthcare assistant who will be joining our group soon. To reduce call waiting times, we have also recruited more experienced reception staff.

"We know patients want to speak to our staff as quickly as possible. We have made improvements and have seen faster response times recently on our phone lines. Our tried and tested digital app will also be rolled out this year to make it easier to contact the surgery. We are making progress, but there is more to do. We look forward to discussing these issues with local councillors in the very near future."

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